From Tortel, With Love

After a wonderful week with my parents onboard, a week filled with glaciers, hiking, and stories that went by all too fast, we made our last stop at Tortel.

Tortel, Chile is a wonderful little town that no road had reached until 2008. Due to the severe weather conditions, a maze of boardwalks crisscrosses the town. Logging is the main industry, and the new construction projects suggest business is doing well, not to mention the grass airstrip just outside of town. The airstrip can be reached by boardwalk from town or by boat up the river. Being afloat as we are, we happily chose the aquarian option. With my parents safely airborne, we made haste back to Reliance, which had already lifted anchor in anticipation of our arrival. Adrift in the channel, we lifted the tender and were on our way. A few hours of fjords and straits lay ahead of us before it was necessary to exit the straits and reemerge in the Pacific. Light winds and flat seas were forecast so we didn’t stress too much about stowing the boat.

A few hours after we departed Tortel, my 2100–0000 watch came up. For the first two hours we were in the fjords, allowing me to comfortably browse through music. Seemingly out of nowhere, a glossy, short swell appeared on the nose. Strange… with a light forecast, we shouldn’t be seeing these swells before leaving shelter. Taking the hint, I went down to my room and put some of my things on the ground just in case the forecast was bunk.

Not thirty minutes later, as we rounded the corner and faced the open Pacific, the swells shortened even more and the wind picked up. Both were dead on our nose, causing the bow of the boat to lift and come crashing down directly into the next one, jarring us to the bone. Doors began to slam closed. Kitchen utensils and appliances slid around the galley. After stumbling around and putting everything down, I had forgotten one thing: a glass jar at the base of the stairs. Just as I sat back down, at the bottom my deep, relieved exhale, it came crashing down as if it were raising a middle finger at my stowing efforts. This woke Chase up, who promptly told me to go stow the boat. Peeved at the suggestion that I hadn’t already done that, and jilted by the glass reminder of my deficiency in doing so, I handed the drive station over to Chase and unsteadily took care of the broken glass.

Upon returning to the bridge, Chase reminded me that we hadn’t secured the drums of rope on the bow and they needed to be taken care of when Mitch came up to changeover watch. For about thirty minutes I sat there dreading the task. Not only was it raucous up there, it was also pouring down rain. Foul weather gear was a must, but digging that out of the closet wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. I was brought back from my depressing contemplations by Mitch appearing groggily in front of me, not having slept a wink in his forward cabin, reflecting my mood perfectly. I relayed the information glumly, then we get suited up and clammered up to the bow.

We both felt like turd-sandwiches before embarking, but while we were out there hauling drums around, a smile crept over my face. The wind and the spray coaxed memories of foul weather sail changes on Lake Michigan as squalls of wind and rain bore down on us, threatening to tear the sails apart if we didn’t manage to get it down in time. In those moments I had always felt energized, purposeful, and relished the competition with the elements. With these fond memories, my seasickness faded.

Contrarily, Mitch found the day head the moment we returned inside… let’s just say it’s because the steak hadn’t settled too well after eating vegetarian for a week ;).

Thus began our night. Twenty hours later, once we finally made it to our anchorage, Alex commented that he was so exhausted it felt like he had run a marathon. We’ve had rough runs before, but, significantly, none have put Mitch’s face in the porcelain until now.

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